MPs to quiz BBC bosses over golden handshake payments

 

BBC bosses face a grilling from MPs over how senior staff were given hefty pay-offs that breached the corporation's own guidelines.

Director-general Tony Hall and chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten will appear before the Public Accounts Committee, along with human resources director Lucy Adams and Trust member Anthony Fry.

Next Wednesday's session comes after a National Audit Office (NAO) report showed huge payments, of hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases, were made even though executives were not always entitled to the money.

In one case the NAO found an executive was paid £300,000 in lieu of notice after their redundancy was agreed - despite serving their notice in full. The payment, equivalent to the cost of 2,062 licence fees, was agreed by then director-general Mark Thompson, and the unnamed figure's redundancy was paid even though they had found a new job.

In a three-year period up to last December, the BBC spent £25 million on severance payments for 150 high-ranking staff, according to today's report, and since 2005 it has made payments totalling £60 million to 401 senior managers.

In almost a quarter of the individual cases reviewed by the NAO, the BBC paid out more than the staff were entitled to under their contracts.

The report also highlighted the case of former BBC2 controller Roly Keating, who was given a £375,000 pay-off but returned the money last month after learning it had not been properly authorised.

Concerns about payments have been heightened in recent months following the decision to award former BBC director-general George Entwistle twice the money he was entitled to after resigning from his job after only 54 days.

The committee has previously expressed disquiet about a redundancy payment to former chief operating officer Caroline Thomson last year who left with a £670,000 pay-off - more than twice her £330,000 salary.

It suggested the money was effectively paid to "compensate" her for missing out on the director-general job.

After taking over as director-general earlier this year, Lord Hall announced moves to cap payments at £150,000 and improve the process.

PA

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